First Snowfall of the Season

We’ve had our first snowfall of the year and, though it probably won’t last long on the ground, it is nice to see the season progressing towards winter. The garden isn’t completely buried but everything is frozen solid. Today the temperature is going above zero so it will be interesting to see how the cabbages, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts do after the freeze. The soil in the coldframe was still unfrozen last I checked but some of the plants growing along the edge were touched by frost. I’ve started hand digging the beds in the coldframe and will put some carrot seed in the ground this week. I ordered a bunch of seed from High Mowing Seeds and will also plant some spinach soon. The rest of the order were for seeds that I’ll be starting late winter/early spring: turnips, raab, chard, lettuce, spinach, chinese greens, onions, leeks, shallots and I’m hoping to get some broad bean seed from Glen Valley Farm.

I am digging in the alfalfa I’d planted in the coldframe as well. Alfalfa was planted along one side of the coldframe where the soil was very compacted, the plan being that alfalfa’s extensive root system will break up some of that compaction. We didn’t innoculate the seed with nitrogen fixing bacteria, so I wasn’t expecting too much of that sort of activity, however I was pleased to see lots of nodules on the roots that were dug up. I’d cut the alfalfa down first to feed it to the goats before digging it in, so it actually has served many purposes. Yes, the goats were very pleased to get a small alfalfa treat!

Speaking of goats, breeding season has come and gone and five does should be carrying kids by now. I bred everyone except Nessie (she is our winter milk supplier) including two who were bred for the first time. I purchased a young buckling in the spring for breeding the new does, a fine looking “Coup Blanc” Alpine named Pinto. He was quite willing to do the job but, unfortunately, the doelings were not the least bit impressed with him. Even though they were definitely in heat, they would not stand to be bred by this young upstart! One doe finally relented when we held her but the other was unwilling to the point of doing violence to herself, Pinto and me! We gave up and let her mate with her daddy, who she was happy to stand for, wagging her tail and fluttering her eyelashes the whole while. Poor Pinto was just not the dominant buck – not big and smelly enough, I guess, though this will change with time. We probably won’t keep Buckley around for much longer now that we have Pinto. I would also like to get a meat breed of buck since we don’t want to expand our milking herd much further and could use some meatier kids if we want to start selling goat meat.

We sent three of this season’s four buck kids to slaughter last week and now have about 80 lbs of goat meat in our freezer. The price to slaughter and cut the meat is quite reasonable and I don’t think we’d save much if we tried to do it ourselves. The meat isn’t cut into anything other than chunks (no goat chops or minced goat or roasts wrapped in string) so we’ll need to experiment with cooking it before selling it. It always helps to have recipes, or at least serving suggestions, before putting something slightly different out there. I don’t think there is a big market for goat meat but you don’t know until you try. For now, we will enjoy a wide variety of goat dishes: roasts, curries, daubs, and braised ribs – yum!

Will is working on the steel building today, putting in the frame for the second door. We have a garage-type door on the side facing the road and it looks great. They are not cheap but are very useful; when there’s lots of snow outside it’s nice not to have to dig out your doorway to get the door open. The other side will be framed in with wood and a four foot wide sliding door will open onto one side, with a good sized window on the other side for light. This side of the building will have the cooler and wash station while the garage door side is where tractors come and go. We also got a load of gravel to finish the ground on the garage door side so it looks really nice, it’s good and solid and there don’t seem to be any scary puddles or other drainage issues at this point. Poor Will put a hole in the steel building with the tractor bucket when he was levelling the ground around the building. It wasn’t too huge a crisis because we had some extra steel panels left over, but still a bit embarrassing. I told him that wasn’t nearly as bad as the time I ran the manure spreader too close to my truck and sliced a big chunk out of the front fender – boy did I feel stupid! Though I was really glad it was my truck and not someone else’s.

Hunting season is finally over and we can venture out into the woods again without fear and flourescent clothing. We posted signs all over our property but there’s still no guarentee that some fool won’t shoot at any sign of motion, regardless of where they are. I’m sure most deer hunters are responsible people but it only takes one yahoo to change your life drastically. Of course we are also concerned that goats look an awful lot like deer and, since hunters have been known to shoot horses, Holstein cattle and each other by mistake, goats are really living dangerously in hunting season. We talked to our neighbors and found that they respected our wishes, though we did get one complaint! I can’t take it too seriously, though; when you consider how much of NB is wilderness, you really don’t need to be hunting deer this close to homes and livestock. Most of the hunters don’t really “hunt” anymore, anyway, they just pile apples up at their bait station and wait for deer to show up. Whatever floats yer boat, as they say….

It’s nice to walk in the woods after a snowfall because you see all the animal tracks. Wild animals are really good at hiding in the forest but their tracks tell stories and it’s nice to get a snapshot of the creatures living in our woods. Of course the grouse and partridges give themselves away in a great booming huff everytime we walk by – they are so good at hiding, you wonder why they feel the need to explode out of the underbrush once you’re past them. Did they think we were just pretending not to see them? Will took me on a big walk last Sunday, down the rail trail and onto some ATV trails. There are so many trails in the area and if you go walking early enough on Sunday or during the week, you can avoid encountering the ATVs. They are terrible things, those machines, but we probably wouldn’t have such a nice network of trails if not for the ATV drivers who build and maintain them. I am just waiting for the day that gas prices go too high for recreational vehicle use and it’s only walkers and horse riders on those trails – yes, I may have to wait a while yet!

I attended a two day food security conference in Moncton last week. It was very well organized and well attended and I learned a lot. It was quite unique in that it focused on two areas: farmers trying to make a living producing food sustainably and access to healthy food by our society’s poorest people. It has long been one of my greatest personal conflicts: I want to make a living producing good quality food in a way that doesn’t damage the environment, but in order to make a living at this, food has to be priced higher than low income people can afford. How to resolve this? Dr. Elaine Powers of Queen’s University spoke very eloquently on this very topic and her conclusion was that change to our current food system has to come from the middle classes. Middle class members can afford to pay more for food (unfortunately they’ve been convinced by advertising that they are all “too busy” to put any energy into acquiring or cooking local, seasonal, whole foods and “can’t afford” to buy organic even though they can afford expensive clothing, entertainment, holidays and electronic gadgets) and they have the confidence to step out of conventional society and do unconventional things (like shopping at the farmer’s market) whereas our society’s poorest want nothing more than to be like conventional society! She mentioned a concept that is being explored all over the world and which I think is very exciting: the guarenteed annual income. Interestingly enough, the Globe and Mail just presented an article on that very idea and explains it better than I can. See the link at the end of this blog entry.

I’m now in the process of starting a small buying club with a few other people in this area. Speerville Flour Mill, located in NB just a few hours from here, grows and processes a variety of grains and have recently introduced organic grocery items to their price list. We can buy bulk quantities of grains, pulses, sugar, nut butters, dried fruits, cocoa, tea, coffee and much more at close to wholesale prices and delivered to our door (minimum quantities for free delivery). I’m quite excited, we’ve already put together a big order ourselves and are just waiting to hear from a few others before sending it to Speerville. I’ll be very happy not to have to drive around Moncton, checking out each of the little health food stores to try and find organic sunflower oil – yipee for buying clubs!

Link to Globe and Mail article

Link to Speerville Flour Mill web site

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